Thursday, November 28, 2013

Happy Thanksgiving?

Living in Rhode Island, I live right next to the state that is the second largest producer of cranberries in the U.S. (The number one producer in the U.S. is Wisconsin.)  Cranberries are related to blueberries and huckleberries and is a shrub or a vine that bears berries that are generally larger than the leaves. 

Source:  Wikipedia

There are four species of cranberries all of which are native to North America, with two species that are also native to Europe and Asia, and one species that is also native to Asia. The species that bears the largest berry was also known here in New England as a bearberry, because bears like them too.  The species known as the Common Cranberry actually has a small pink berry, but the other species bear fruit that is initially white, but turns a deep red when fully ripe.

The name cranberry comes from a change of name that was originally craneberry because the flowers were thought to resemble a crane.

Source:  Wikipedia

Cranberries do need moist soil to grow, but beds are only flooded for harvest in the fall so the term cranberry bog is somewhat of a misnomer.

Source:  Wikipedia

From a Native American Recipe blog, here is a recipe for Cranberry Wild Rice Stuffing:

Cranberry/Wild Rice Stuffing
1/2 c Wild Rice, uncooked
1 c Water
1/4 c Raisins, dark or golden
5 Green Onions (scallions), chopped
1 tb Vegetable Oil
1/2 c Celery ~or- Fennel Bulb, chopped
1 c Cranberries, fresh or frozen
1 ts Orange Rind, grated
1/2 t Dried Thyme

Put the wild rice in a saucepan. Add the water and raisins and cook over medium heat for 1 hour, or until the rice is tender. Drain.  Sauté the onions and celery (or fennel bulb) in the oil until tender. Add the cranberries, orange rind, thyme and rice. Stuff into two Cornish hens or a 3-pound chicken, or use with turkey breast. Bake in a 350-degree oven for 1 hour, or until the poultry is done.

"Thanksgiving has become synonymous with family, food and football over the years. But this unassuming American holiday is not without controversy. Schools still teach children that Thanksgiving marks the day that Pilgrims met helpful Indians who gave them food, farming techniques and more to overcome the bitter New England cold. The children color cutouts of happy Pilgrims and happy Indians which ignore that contact between the two led to the decimation of millions of Native peoples. To raise awareness about the price indigenous people paid for Thanksgiving, a group called the United American Indians of New England established Thanksgiving as its National Day of Mourning in 1970. The fact that UAINE mourns on this day poses a question to any socially conscious American: Should Thanksgiving be celebrated?"  Source:  About .com from the article 'Thanksgiving:  A Day of Celebration or Mourning for Native Americans?' by Nadra Kareem Nittle.  Click here if you'd like to read more.

Monday, November 25, 2013

In My Mind I'm Goin' to Carolina

Big excitement at the bird feeder yesterday.  I finally identified the little brown bird I had caught a glimpse of the other day.  It was a Carolina Wren - the first I've seen since I've been here.  Of course, it could have been around before; they are pretty common in this area.  My friends in New Jersey have them all the time, but now I have one of my own.

Carolina wrens are a bird found only in the eastern U.S., southern Ontario, and parts of northeastern Mexico.  The way I positively identified my wren was its prominent white 'eyebrows', longish bill, and distinctive upward cocked tail.

 Source:  Wikipedia

It is the second largest wren species being a little on the chunky side.  Its normal menu is insects found in leaf litter as it is a ground forager.  A good reason to leave fall leaves in your yard until spring!  They also frequent brush piles and my neighbor behind me has a nice one.  They don't migrate and harsh winters can take their toll on these delightful little birds, but they are quick to build their numbers back up at breeding season.  They also eat some fruit.

Source:  All About Birds

It does frequent feeders and, as you can see, suet in winter if other food is scarce.  Reading that I just about froze taking more suet out without my coat on since it was in the 20s with a wind chill of about 11!  Had a heck of a time getting that little hook in a hole in the chain on my suet feeder with the wind blowing like crazy. Well, obviously I didn't freeze - hey, I was motivated.  I wanted to make sure that little wren has plenty to eat.  Berry suet was my optimum choice.  Looking forward to seeing it again.

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Afternoon on a Hill

Serpent Gourd Flower   Source: Wikipedia

Afternoon on a Hill
By Edna St. Vincent Millay

I will be the gladdest thing
   Under the sun!
I will touch a hundred flowers
   And not pick one.

I will look at cliffs and clouds
   With quiet eyes,
Watch the wind bow down the grass,
   And the grass rise.

And when lights begin to show
   Up from the town,
I will mark which must be mine,
   And then start down!

Pampas grass   Source: Wikipedia

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Colossal Condors

Condors are in the vulture family and are the largest flying land birds in the Western Hemisphere.  Because of their size, they prefer mountainous areas with good wind so they can glide on the air currents with little or no effort.  That is one way to identify a condor - it's a bird that rarely flaps its wings once it's airborne. Condors are scavengers and carrion eaters with bald heads to keep their heads cleaner when they stick them in carcasses for their dinner.  There are two species of condors.

The Andean condor is found in the Andes Mountains and coastal western South America and has a wingspan over 10 feet and can weigh over 30 pounds.  They're not particularly pretty birds.  In fact, you might say it's a bird only their mother could love, but they are pretty impressive.

Likewise, the California condor, which is slightly smaller than the Andean condor at a wingspan of just under 10 feet and weighing around 26 pounds, find their meals by sight and not sense of smell and prefer carcasses of larger animals such as deer or sheep.  At one time California condors were widespread across the country, but their numbers were greatly reduced by the 20th Century.  Until a captive breeding program brought these birds back from the brink of extinction, there were only 22 birds left in the wild by 1987.  There are now over 200 birds that have been reintroduced in parts of California, Utah and Arizona, and over 400 condors overall.  The main reason for the slow recovery is because they are slow breeders producing only one chick in a season and sometimes only nesting every other year.

Source:  Wikipedia

Condors can live up to 60 or 70 years and their biggest threat is humans.  As ugly as these birds are, they are part of nature's garbage service and an essential and amazing part of our ecosystem.

Friday, November 15, 2013

Curving Canyons

A slot canyon begins as a hairline crack in a rock and through millions of years of flash floods, wind and time eventually a narrow canyon is formed.  Some can only be a yard wide but almost 100 feet deep.  Many are formed in limestone or sandstone; both are types of sedimentary rock.

Slot canyons can be found all over the world, but some of the most famous and most widely visited are right here in the Southwestern United States. Utah has a large concentration of slot canyons, possible the most in the world.   Red Cave is a slot canyon located in Mt. Carmel just outside of Zion National Park.

Red Cave  Source: Zion National Park website

One of the most visited slot canyons is the Antelope Canyon in northern Arizona within the LeChee Chapter of the Navajo Nation.

Upper Antelope Canyon  Source: Wikipedia

Upper Antelope Canyon  Source: Wikipedia

Lower Antelope Canyon   Source: Wikipedia

Possibly the longest slot canyon in the world, Buckskin Gulch is near Kanab, Utah and is almost 21 miles long.

Wire Pass, an entrance to Buckskin Gulch   Source: Wikipedia

The smooth winding curves and swirls within the rock offers a myriad of photographic opportunities, as well as a sense of wonder at the power of water.

Monday, November 11, 2013

I Wandered Lonely as a Cloud

I found this poem I really liked.  Maybe I should have saved it for spring when it is more appropriate, but thought that a reminder that the further we get into winter, the closer we are to spring was also fitting.  We may get our first snow shower tomorrow.  Some bright daffodil faces may be just what the doctor ordered.

Source:  Wikipedia

I Wandered Lonely as a Cloud
By William Wordsworth

I wandered lonely as a cloud

That floats on high o'er vales and hills,

When all at once I saw a crowd,

A host, of golden daffodils;

Beside the lake, beneath the trees,

Fluttering and dancing in the breeze.

Continuous as the stars that shine

And twinkle on the milky way,

They stretched in never-ending line

Along the margin of a bay:

Ten thousand saw I at a glance,

Tossing their heads in sprightly dance.

The waves beside them danced; but they

Out-did the sparkling waves in glee:

A poet could not but be gay,

In such a jocund company:

I gazed—and gazed—but little thought

What wealth the show to me had brought:

For oft, when on my couch I lie

In vacant or in pensive mood,

They flash upon that inward eye

Which is the bliss of solitude;

And then my heart with pleasure fills,

And dances with the daffodils.

Source:  Wikipedia

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Fleeting Felines

One of the most beautiful cats around is the clouded leopard, so named because of the 'clouded' spots on its coat. 

Source::  Wikipedia

It lives in southeast Asian forests and is one the few cats that can go down a tree headfirst due to its specially modified ankles, and can hang upside down from branches by its back feet.  Like the tiger, this cat isn't afraid of water and is a good swimmer.  My, what big teeth you have!  This cat which is actually not a leopard, has the longest canines relative to skull size of any living carnivore.  Its teeth and jaws are very similar to extinct saber-toothed cats and are thought to be the evolutionary link between the small cats (such as the sand cat and domestic cat) and the large cats (lions and tigers).  The clouded leopard's tail is almost as long as its body and can weigh up to 50 pounds.

Source:  Wikipedia

The Sunda clouded leopard (Neofelis diardi), previously known as the Bornean clouded leopard, is recognized as a genetically distinct species from the species simply known as the clouded leopard (Neofelis nebulosa) which has three sub-species, one living from southern China to eastern Myanmar, a second found from Nepal to Myanmar,  and a third which lived in Taiwan and was just recently declared extinct.   There may be as few as 10,000 clouded leopards left in the wild. 

Sunda Clouded Leopard    Source:  Wikipedia

The Clouded Leopard project is dedicated to the conservation of clouded leopards and their habitat.  You learn more about their work and see more photos and video here.

Monday, November 4, 2013

Stunning Sunset II

Saturday night we had another spectacular sunset.  I watched as it started with a yellow-gold glow and then turned into the Dreamsicle sky you see here. I only caught the last few minutes of it on my camera because I had a cat on my lap! Tippi was snuggled in and I hated to disturb her, but the urge was just too great and I had to capture at least part of the sunset. Hopefully Tippi has forgiven me.

"Soon it got dusk, a grapy dusk, a purple dusk over tangerine groves and long melon fields; the sun the color of pressed grapes, slashed with burgundy red, the fields the color of love and Spanish mysteries."
- Jack Kerouac, On the Road